We're all familiar with the selfie by now – and what started as something that was seen as being limited to hipsters and trendy young people has long since become a global phenomenon.
Indeed, Oxford Dictionaries declared 'selfie' the Word of the Year 2013, so it can now be seen as a firmly established activity. Entire social networks thrive on the popularity of taking a selfie in a variety of locations and at a wide range of events.
With this in mind, the impact of the selfie is growing from humble and occasionally derided origins to something that could have a much more profound impact on the wider world.
A new report from futurologist Dr Ian Pearson, Futurizon and Sony Mobile has found that consumers all over the world are potentially open to a vast number and wide range of applications for camera photography.
The study, which was based on a survey of 6,500 Europeans in the UK, France, Germany and Spain, explored various sectors that are likely to incorporate smartphone photography and selfies as a technological function in the future.
Possible applications ranged from leisure-based to more practical everyday uses, such as theme parks building 'selfie-coasters' that allow adrenaline junkies to capture their experience on the latest rides, to clothes shoppers using it as a virtual personal assistant to see how they look in several outfits at the touch of a button.
For the survey, participants were also asked their thoughts on the evolution of selfies as a social trend, as well as the appetite for these more functional uses of smartphone photography.
Michio Maruhashi, from marketing strategy at Sony Mobile, said this provided a strong sense of the social development of selfies and how this could lead to them having a transformative impact on a wide range of sectors.
The top ten ways in which consumers identified selfies as having the potential to evolve over the next five years were led by dating in the top spot. This was followed by medical and banking in second and third places respectively. Over a quarter of people would prefer to see their GP via a selfie or video call in the first instance and almost half of 25-34-year-olds would feel more secure if they were able to access online banking with a 'selfie password' – possibly using facial recognition technology.
Leisure purposes such as the selfie rollercoaster came in fourth place, with gym or fitness possibilities coming in fifth.
Dr Pearson said: “Through this report, it has been fascinating to chart the evolution of selfies and smartphone photography with the team at Sony Mobile. But even more encouraging has been the response from consumers, who have shown they are open to the range of future uses for selfies and video calls.
“The results clearly show that selfies are well on their way to transitioning from frivolous fad to technological phenomenon and provide food for thought to a number of industries. The potential is huge, and it will be exciting to watch this unfold over the coming years.”